So, I'm still slowly exploring the taqueria scene in my neck of the woods (just tried huaraches yesterday, a very pleasant revelation), and I have a question about the soups I often see patrons eating. Of the two acclaimed taquerias I've visited so far, one serves soup though it's not on the menu and the other features soup on its menu board, listed with the same meat options as its tacos, gorditas, etc. Unfortunately, there is too much of a language gap between the servers and me to ascertain what kind of soup these places are serving. So my question is, is there more or less a "standard" soup or soup base served at taquerias in the States? Or does it vary widely, and you just don't know until you take the plunge? Thanks in advance for furthering my taqueria education.
Here are some possibilities of Soups they May be serving:
Caldo de Pollo (Mexican Chicken soup sometimes flavored with Mint)
Albondigas (Meatball soup sometimes in a tomato-chipotle broth)
Menudo ("Hangover" Norteno Tripe soup in chile broth - usually a saturday and sunday special)
Posole (Pork soup with nixtamalized corn: Three variations: Verde[Guerrenese], Rojo [Jaliscan], y blanco)
Siete Mares ( 7 seas)
Tortilla Soup (D.F.'s soup)
Birria (Consomme) [could be goat or beef - my favorite)
Tlalpeno (chipotle &chicken)
fideos (vermecelli soup)
caldo de res (beef soup ... sometimes with a cow's hoof in there)
caldo de camarones (shrimp soup)
caldo de pescado (fish soup)
Menudo and pozole are usually only served on week-ends
I wouldn't start with menudo. I have had some menudo that made me a convert and some menudo which would have scared me out of a hangover, the tripe almost moo-ed.
I love pozole. It made me fall in love with Mexican soups. I've never seen the green, usually its the red and the one place I saw the white went out of business before I could get there.
I'm not that impressed with plain chicken soup. It is ok ... whole chicken legs with bones are usually in there with big chuncks of veggies ... usually carrots, celery and potato, sometimes chayote. I prefer the Tlalpeno which has more character.
I have yet to have a great meatball soup. They have been good, but not earth-shattering. Better than the chicken.
I like Tortilla soup a lot but only if they serve the condiments on the side. I like to add the cheese and tortillas myslef. Only had fideos once. It wasn't too memorable but it was at an upscale American place. Never saw it elsewhere on a menu in my area.
Birria is great --- rich and thick with the most tender meat. I like the goat (chivo) better.
Don't remember trying seafood soups.
My Two Cents...
RW & Kare have done a great job describing the usual suspects here in California. The thing is that Soups / Stews are the what people in Mexico most commonly eat... so while they are not meant to be served at Taquerias, and there are no given Taqueria standards... the Taquerias will go out of their way to make a daily batch everyday for anybody that wants them (not a given since Mexican eating habits change radically in the U.S.)... and that is why one place doesn't list them on the menu.
(BTW, every little Mexican place seems to have some specialty off the menu... only available to the priveleged few that know what to ask for. Its usually some regional specialty they can't make any money on, but they have to carry it so they don't alienate the small percentage of clientele from their hometown etc.)
With that said, when I drove around RTP, I noticed immigrants from the state of Guerrero (think Acapulco), whereas California doesn't have any perceptible population of Guerrerenses (here its mostly people from Michoacan, Jalisco, Sinaloa etc)... so the soups served at their taquerias are bound to be quite different from what we get in California (with the exception of Guerrero's Green & White pozoles mentioned by Kare).
Everyone has their idea about what makes good Chili. This same concept applies to Menudo. I agree with rworange that there is some risk in the search effort, but it can really payoff if you find the right Taqueria. Once you do, you'll be hooked.
The most common I see are menudo and pozole. Caldo de pollo and caldo de rez would be next. Caldo de mariscos (siete mares?) and albondigas would be next.
Pozole would be my best bet (hope you like hominy). It's been pretty good the places I've been. Whereas caldo de Mariscos has been quite bad many places I've been. I would love to find birria soup. That sounds terrific. (There's a Salvadorean resto that served iguana soup. It was a bit too "inguany" for me.)
re: J T
Didn't taste like chicken?
On the SF board SOMEWHERE ... is La Loma # 11 on Rumrill Road that has a GREAT beef birria. Also El Tapatio on 23rd has a wonderful goat birria complete with little bones in the tender goat meat.
BTW, thanks for that long ago rec for Hacienda Grill ... haven't tried the soup there yet, though.
Yeah, I love hominy. It has a nice sorta chewy texture to it.